At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
There’s no denying that while Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin—out this week—carries a vast appeal to the typical young audience that animated movies tend to reel in (and aim toward). But their parents might be just as intrigued, given the fact that the popular story dates back to the 1930s and the decades that followed; it summons the kid in everyone. A lot of animated movies do that, attract not just the tyke set but also the grownup demographic—be it for deeper-than-meets-the-eye subject matter or groundbreaking animation/effects. In honor of the generation-transcending cartoons, here's a few of the movie history's best:
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
South Park the TV series isn’t necessarily intended for mature audiences, but it most certainly is in the ratings sense. Ditto for Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s too-crude-for-TV, often hilarious, slyly satirical feature-length replication of their Comedy Central show. Kid viewers can certainly appreciate the characters’ voices and perhaps some sound effects – but, well, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to.
Kids aren’t really into talky, trippy, animated, experimental meditations on the Meaning of Life, but then, director Richard Linklater didn’t make Waking Life for them; this wasn’t his Bad News Bears phase. Linklater made the film for his Slackers/Dazed and Confused followers – if not solely for himself – and those viewers, along with critics, enjoyed Waking Life quite a bit. See also: Linklater’s similarly “animated,” similarly out-there A Scanner Darkly.
Before Tim Burton made live-action gothic movies for young audiences, he made animated gothic movies for grownups – or at least one such movie: Corpse Bride. The painstaking stop-motion animation in this Burton-co-directed Oscar nominee was beyond amazing, but the story wasn’t far behind – and it was one that kids could at least follow but one that adults (even film-geek adults) could fully sink their teeth into. The simple fact that a movie called Corpse Bride nowadays can even secure a PG rating is fascinating.
Waltz with Bashir
Not suitable for children; not at all. For grownups, though, this Israeli film about the Lebanon War was as good as it gets, and also quite a sight to behold. Director Ari Folman’s decision to animate – and his marvelous execution thereof – what is essentially a war docudrama produced a refreshing take on the potential brutality of man and his war, and the result was appropriately surreal.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Incredibly innovative in its day, technologically speaking, Robert Zemeckis’ live-action/animation hybrid (which unsurprisingly swept the technical categories at the Oscars) had plenty for young’ns to fawn over (even a catchphrase from its protagonist: “P-p-p-p-p-lease, Eddie!”), but it’s also an adult-skewing, noirish detective story – albeit a PG-rated version. Although let’s be honest, Jessica Rabbit, who spawned more porn send-ups than Sarah Palin, was a few inches of flesh away from rendering Roger PG-13, at the very least.
The minimalistic animation of this Oscar-nominated masterpiece from Marjane Satrapi (who adapted her own graphic novel of the same name) isn’t meant to impress or constantly spellbind viewers – which all but eliminates younger movies – but those with patience are greatly rewarded. And educated.
Fritz the Cat
Just saying “based on the comic strip by Robert Crumb” would be enough for parents to prevent their kids from seeing Fritz the Cat, even if Crumb, in some alternate universe, had somehow produced a tame comic strip. But Fritz is about, quite literally, almost everything untame. It also happens to make for quite an interesting, if not always noble or enlightening, viewing. Oh – and it also happens to be the first X-rated animated film.
Most Pixar Movies
It’s not so much that most Pixar movies contain deep or subliminal undercurrents of profundity only decipherable by grownups; it’s that they generally appeal to all ages, because of both their technological wizardry and the depth of the stories. Kids and parents can see the films together – namely the Toy Story series, The Incredibles and Up, whose “Lifespan” sequence can reduce anyone of any age to tears – and interpret them completely differently. Pixar makes films that are, in every way, the very antithesis of exclusive.